Tortoise Visit to Kamasada Ironwork's Studio! - Iwate Prefecture - tortoise general store

Tortoise Visit to Kamasada Ironwork's Studio! - Iwate Prefecture

Posted by Emma Tsuchida on

Our first visit to Kamasada Studio was back in 2002 when we weren't yet residing in the US.  We were led there out of pure curiosity for this rich traditional craft that melded so well with modern design.  The head of Kamasada, Mr. Miya was very welcoming, showing us his showroom and his office where he was working on custom projects.  His work reflected both his mastery of Nambu Tetsu (cast iron) as well as his keen sensibilities for modern shapes and forms.

As soon as we entered the workshop, which looks like an old-style home from the outside, all colors dissipated into a monochromatic interior.  Mr. Miya explained that melting iron under high heat indoors, under layers of coal, has made their workshop different shades of black over the course of 120 years.  Except for the annual appearance of their protective Shimenawa ornament (a Japanese sacred straw festoon) dedicated to the fire god – everything was black from wall to ceiling!

It was our 11-year-old son’s first time to visit Kamasada, and also our first time meeting Mr. Miya's son Shotaro.  We learned that Shotaro, after working in a different industry came back to follow his family business as the 4th generation of Kamasada.  Due to their location in Iwate prefecture, a region with 400 years of cast iron making history, some studios boast 10 generations.  While Kamasada doesn’t have such a long history yet, they are unique and impressive for their ability to craft every part of their work, from the beginning to the end.

When we arrived, we found Shotaro in deep concentration making dimples into a new clay cast for the outer shell of a Kamasada Kettle.  This dotted surface is called 'arare', a very traditional and typical pattern found in Nambu Tekki kettles across Japan. 


Through skilled methods, Mr. Miya and Shotaro can place inner casts in the center of outer casts, ensuring the same thickness for all their wares.  An even 2mm of iron throughout!  Furthermore, we learned that every knob on the lids of Kamasada kettles is handcrafted and inspired by shapes found in nature like flower blossoms.  Mr. Miya places whimsical holes depicting mushikui (warm-eaten surface) in these plant bud lid handles as an intentional design with function – a very clever way to prevent the knob from getting too hot!

So much patience and training is required from this father and son pair, at times it felt beyond our understanding.  But conversely if you're able to comprehend even a small part of the process and appreciate Kamasada's high quality standards, we know your enjoyment of Kamasada can increase significantly.

The following are our favorite characteristics of Nambu Tekki-wear (cast iron):

• long-lasting products, intended to serve households for 3 generations!
• their raw iron kettles make water taste milder
• water boiled in their raw iron kettles is infused with healthy doses of iron w
• high heat retention and ease of use
• functional on gas, induction, or electric stove tops, along with being oven safe

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Thank you Mr. Miya and Shotaro for welcoming us into your studio.  We're inspired by your dedication to this difficult craft and your openness to expanding your designs and exploring how ironworks can be a lovely addition to our daily lives.  Please view the full collection of Kamasada here on our online store!

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